Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's wives - This is not a review

Plot: Baba Segi's first three wives are very upset about the addition of a fourth wife to their menagerie. They make her life as difficult as possible, but their attacks start to backfire when Baba Segi takes his new wife to the doctor to discover why she can't conceive for him.

Hi People,
I have been away from  blogger this past one week and i must say i missed you all. Usually even if i dont blog, i manage to make my rounds but this past fortnight has been so packed with busyness that i doze in front of my laptop. At least i am happy to find that i suffer not internet withdrawal symptons. I'll find some balance soon and hopefuly will catch up on all ya gist.
Congrats to @tilola on getting published! Will be adding your book to my side bar. My list of famous author friends is increasing! Remember me when you get to your kingdom o.

So I finally finished Lola Shoneyin’s debut novel and can I say I loved it. It's been my conversation starter this past fortnight :). The book sorta sorta started slowly and unlike those who guessed the secret from the beginning I didn’t. It wasn’t until the chaos that accompanied the fertility test results that I started LOL and couldn't wait to get to the end!

A friend described it as …’a more elaborate reproduction of the Nigerian sitcom “Fuji house of commotion”. Maybe. For me, it was an intimate glimpse into a traditional Yoruba polygamous family: the kind of man who heads it, the women who marry him, the chaos, the jealousy, the solidarity. It also drew/threw me back to the city of my alma mater Ibadan.

Baba Segi’s home setting is quite different from the only example I have of polygamy. My childhood friends come to mind. They came from a polygamous home. Their wealthy dad married 3 wives or was it 4??! There were about 20 kids and as a last child who practically grew up alone, I envied them their bustling home, sister-friendships and the ability to swap clothes/books etc. I’m sure there were some internal rivalry, wranglings but surely not death plots as seen in Baba Segi’s wives?!

So I had a rousing argument with two of my friends (Nigerians I must add) who have read the book over lunch last Sunday about the ‘theme’ of the book and the ‘ending’. Z said he neither appreciated the plot (he is the one that compared it to Fuji house) nor could he see a theme. He liked it cause it was an amusing read. Same with J. 
Both said they did not appreciate the ending; that we didn’t get enough of Bolanle to believe in her transformation. That with all that had happened, that simply getting over it and moving on was just too simplistic.

I was on the opposing camp. First I have never looked out for themes per se when reading a book. A book should either entertain me with its plot or the author’s writing style. I would use M and Bs as my case in point. They all have same plot right? But the location, setting, authors style of delivery is what makes one interesting and the other boring (but what do I know!). A book could also educate and here I don’t mean obvious ‘thou shalt not kill’ or thou shalt not commit adultery’. It can enlighten me about a location, a culture, a people, a cause. I think Lola’s book did all that.
Notwithstanding, there was a theme…Lola’s book explored the status of women in a patriarchal society. It’s a bit difficult to identify them cause as a Nigerian, they are situations we accept as normal, moreover they were treated lightly and humorously.
Iya Segi’s mother gave her hard earned money (cause as a woman she was not supposed to love money) to her future husband without her permission.
Iya Tope’s father gave her to Baba Segi in a business exchange.
Iya Femi’s Uncle and Aunt took over her inheritance and sold her into modern day slavery in Grandma’s house where she was subsequently abused by the son.
Bolanle was raped by a man who assumed that she was asking for it.
The obligation to produce a child especially a male child and the status it gives.
Yet, it wasn’t all about oppression. The women weren’t victims. They connive and manipulate to get their way. Be it Iya Segi’s cunning to get her business up and thriving, or Iya Tope's fulfilling sexual affair or Bolanle and her colorful bowls, they had their ways of rebeling and exerting their will on Baba Segi.

Secondly, I thought the ending was fitting. Bolanle wasn’t the main character per se. All the wives were. Bolanle was only the catalyst that triggered off the chain reactions. Bolanle had married Baba Segi not just to hide her shame, but to find herself – even if she didn’t realize it. Her subsequent confessions about prior events were more or less the catharsis that healed her. Ultimately, her infertility gave her a peaceful out as Baba Segi in fairness couldn’t keep her back to bear the brunt of ‘barrenness’ now could he?
I also think Iya Segi’s advice was the only way forward because although Baba Segi is horrifically betrayed by his wives, being an African man, he wouldn’t want the world to know he has been cuckolded not by 1 but 3 wives.

Thirdly, ‘simply getting over things’ and moving on is a cultural thing for us Nigerians. We don’t spend hours talking about issues or pay a shrink to help us. We just fold it away in some deep trunk and move on. Therefore to an extent I could appreciate why/how Bolanle was able to move on.

Lastly, there was a little criticism about her prose. That it was too simplistic. That it wasn’t as tight as a Chimamada’s for example. That it fringed on crudity. I agree, but I think it well-suited her illiterate characters. I believe she wrote in a voice that represented them. The reader is expected to appreciate the absence of a ‘certain refinement’ in their thought processes.

Anyway these are my thoughts. What do you think?

On a lighter note, 5 things I learnt from the book
  1. The saying that only a woman knows the father of her child never came truer than in this book lol
  2. When next I drive past Ayikara in Ibadan I would be on the lookout for Bolanle’s haunts
  3. We live in a lawless society. The burning of the hit and run driver in front of his family gave me goose pimples.
  4. Polygamy exists because men can! Not because of some great love/lust on their parts like I used to think.
  5. A woman’s hoo-ha is akin to a snail’s body. Hmmm, let me go look again..
  6. Sexual dissatisfaction is a silent epidemic amongst families! Haba, how can 4 women sentence themselves to a lifetime of unsatisfactory coupling? No wonder they were always quarreling. And the silly Baba Segi's of the world prolly think themselves 'the man'. Lol.
  7. Baba Segi’s adventures with porn, masturbation and semen collection was hilarious. Funny, I never thought that could be an issue with men. So how do men who abhor masturbation deal with the process when they have to, at least for medical reasons like a fertility tests?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Goodluck is one of TIMES 100 most influential persons

TIME’s 100 most Influential persons: They are the people who inspire us, entertain us, challenge us and change our world. Meet the breakouts, pioneers, moguls, leaders and icons who make up this year's TIME 100

I laughed in Mandarin when I saw this.
 I thought he was there for presiding over the most number of violent civilian deaths under a democratic government in Nigeria (influential doesn’t have to be positive you know - e.g. Hitler). 
I laughed more when I read the preface given by none other than Sirleaf Johnson. I almost wondered if she was talking about someone else.

This is what President Sirleaf Johnson has to say about him:

“In two short years, President Jonathan has shown the same dexterity he demonstrated as governor of Bayelsa, the same ability to find the remedies to the many complexities of running a nascent democracy. He has spearheaded the fight against corruption and turned Nigeria into an example of good governance. He has also made a significant impact on consolidating peace and security in West Africa. From the onset of our own crisis, Liberia has benefitted from the support of Nigeria. President Jonathan not only upheld the trend but added to it. With leaders like President Jonathan, Africa is sure to move toward prosperity, freedom and dignity for all of its people”.

I threw my hands up in the air at the last sentence. Really? I wish we could say  “He has also made a significant impact on consolidating peace and security IN NIGERIA”. Sic.

p.s. This is where I miss Nigeria. I’m sure all the dailies will be filled with congratulatory messages from his sycophants. And worse he now has a reason to puff at his naysayers and say ‘this prophet is not admired in his own home’ then relax and do even less than he is doing.

Click here to see the rest 99.

Click here to check out The All-time TIME 100 of all time (mouthful isn't it?)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Tyler's Good Deeds

Hi People

So in my last post, TP fans told me to keep my critiquing mouth outta his business cause they are not gonna stop watching his movies anytime soon. Lol.
I hope he is paying you’ll for showing him love :)
Myne and LDP recommended the new movie Good deeds so I decided to watch it sooner than later.

The Plot: Wesley Deeds, a fifth-generation Ivy League graduate and workaholic-company executive of his family’s vast computer empire (something vague like that) has his hands full juggling business concerns, a self-destructive brother(Brian White) and a controlling mother (Phylicia Rashad). He finds even less excitement in his long term relationship with his live-in Ivy league fiancée Gabrielle Union.
As plans for their impending wedding kicks in, Wesley meets homeless widow and mother Lyndsey (Thandie Newton). His radar for sniffing out flailing companies tells him she needs a saviour, but Wesley ultimately discovers that Lyndsey isn’t the only one who needs saving.
I liked the Romdram (It wasn’t exactly a romcom - the ‘com’ was sombrely missing). 

First off Tyler Perry it seems is listening to his critics yeah (me included!!). Good deeds is a much more rounded movie than his usual offerings. The melodrama was quite mellow. And best of all, no raunchy extended family members or Madea shooting things up.
The tendency to create one-dimensional characters like evil brother Walter was still there but it was at least limited to him. On the other hand, I appreciate the effort he made to flesh out the lead roles. Lyndsey’s character held true to the end. She is someone I could know. Rude yet kind, bitchy yet strong, just rolling with the punches life has given her. Kudos to Thandie Newton who I have never seen in better form. She carried that movie.
Fiesty Gabrielle Union did great too though her character wasn’t as fleshed out. She wasn’t bad on the eyes either. As for Tyler Perry, he puts the gentle in gentleman with that soft voice and enigmatic smile. I also think he had good chemistry with Thandie.

The only weakness in the plot was the ending. Methinks they desperately needed time apart.
Secondly, note to Tyler: Africa is a continent comprising of 46 diverse countries. You could have made an effort to know the names of one or three. You could have said ‘I am going to Tanzania/Kenya/East-West-South Africa NOT ‘I am going to Africa’ duh! and uh um when did poor girlfriend manage to get all the requisite visas. Obviously they've not tried to get a Nigerian visa before, lol.

Ginger scores it 6.5/10

In other gists, there were some unexplored themes in Good Deeds that made me go hmmmmmm:

1. Did Wesley cheat on his girlfriend? I loved that most mature break up talk but damn I think an apology was missing from him. Like my friend said….he compromised his relationship. He should never have accepted that bike ride with her knowing he was engaged. Na so handshake reach elbow.

2. When are we ever going to have a movie where the handsome rich man helps the poor damsel in distress then leaves HER to get on with HER life while HE goes back to his wife or girlfriend?

Okay, I’m out. Have a great week people!!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Tyler Perry and his Movies

There are two main kinds of people who watch Tyler Perry’s films. Those who love his movies and those who hate them.
Then there are those like me who really want to love his movies and keep rooting for him because we admire how far he has come and what he has achieved for the black community. The reality is that Kimberly Elise, Tasha Smith, Jill Scott, Malik Yoba, Richard Jones, Janet Jackson are billable today because of his movies. But more than that, he gave a girl who doesn’t mind some dark chocolate on her screen a venue to see black families in action. No matter their madness I could relate to them somehow.
On the downside a beautiful and talented actress like Kimberly Elise might never be critically acclaimed or receive the highest rewards in her field because she has hitched her star to Tyler Perry’s melodramatic enterprise. Like someone said ‘while mainstream movies are subtle and take you in scene by scene, Tyler just drops the viewer into a fish pool of barracudas where you are forced to make instantaneous judgments’. LOL

He first came into my horizon with ‘Diary of a Mad Black Woman’ in 2006. DMBW was like a drink of cool aid after being choked dry with black movies where ‘fuckU’ is the noun, verb, adjective and mantra. It was good to see a black movie that was devoid of street violence, guns and plain old crime. The moralistic undertones, the Hallelujah singing were most welcome.
I went through the highs and lows of the MBW. Her expulsion from her matrimonial home. Her lack of self confidence in a new relationship. I crowed at her revenge: I understood every slap, every with held spoon of food, every insult she leveled at her bedridden ex Charles. Ha! I believed in karma once again.
I got to watch the movie again, late last year and it was like I had had brain surgery. Where I’d cried before I cringed this time - Charles unrelenting vileness, the druggie cousin's redemption, Madea shooting ‘em up? Oh please!

Then came Meet the Browns. Arghhhh! This movie made me pull my hair with its mediocrity and drama. Angela Basset played a long suffering, always crying, three times baby Mama who was waiting on yet another Sir Galahad to save her (and hopefully not impregnate her again). Latino girlfriend thankfully gave us some reasons to laugh though that grew old real soon.

Madea’s Family Reunion. That’s the domestic violence plot where hot grits resolves all problems and TP made multiple Madea-rish appearances. Twas alright but moving on…

The Family that Preys. Family loyalty, Infidelity, Sibling rivalry, two friends off on a ‘Thelma and Louise’ type adventure. I found this an interesting watch except for when Sanaa Lathan’s  husband (without prior discussion)sweeps out the family’s joint account, an account majorly contributed to by the wife and Tyler Perry makes her the bad one? Come on!

Daddy’s little girls: So much drama (rolls eyes) – The druggie ex-wife and boyfriend, alleged rape, child abuse, Rich girl/poor boy - TP knows how to pile ‘em on! What I loved though was the message that a united community can protect their own.

Why did I get married? Despite its melodrama, this was one of his most entertaining movie. There was the villain, the good wife and all the characters in between. Tasha Smith carried the day as the loud nagging gangster shrew Angela married to a bumbling Marcus.
My favourite scene is when Mike reveals everyone’s skeleton-in-the-cupboard at the dinner table. Match Set BOOM!! LOL!
Why did I get married too This is where TP tries to rip off on the success of Why did I get married. But this time in Marriageville, there was no plot but plenty of subplots, and Janet J’s character finally went mad. I mean what was all that ‘trashing the house with a golf club for? Did her husband deserve a share in her book earnings? A big fat YES. If the roles are reversed would you think, a wife has a right to her husband’s earning? YES. So why the double standard?
Pls wait!! Does that cameo appearance by ‘The Rock’ mean there will be a ‘Why did I get married too too? Nooooo

For Colored Girls
This has been one of Tyler Perry’s better movies up to date and his most ambitious project. TP adapted the movie from Ntozake Shange's play "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf – a collection of 20 poems each dealing with intense issues that particularly impact ‘women of color’. I don’t know if I agree with the issues being ‘For Colored Women’ – black women in particular. Women of all races and skin color deal with love, betrayal, rape, infertility, domestic violence, abortion, infidelity everyday. What is crazy is that this play written in 1975 (37 years ago) still resonates today.
For those of us who might never have seen it staged, we have TP to thank for bringing it to the screen. I am thankful he retained most of the original play, cause though the characters break into poetry at incongruous junctions in the movie, one can’t deny the beauty and truth in Ntozake’s words.
Lady in Yellow/Anika Noni Rose gave a most glorious performance. I loved the imagery of light, dance and joy which radiated through her from her first scene till post–rape when it felt like someone had switched off her light. I wept at that darkness cursing the rapist who had caused it.
Lady in Green/Loretta Devine’s relationship with an unreliable lover, her love-plants made me laugh and when she finally decided that her love was too precious, to be thrown in her face, I cheered.
Kimberly Elise’s Crystal suffered what no woman should ever go through while Phylicia Rashad was the real ‘Madea’- all seeing, all wise.
The weak links were Janet Jackson’s Jo, her gay husband, Whoopi’s fanatic character, Macy Gray as a scary alcoholic  butcher surgeon (I wouldn’t let a woman like that see my briefs talk of opening my legs for her to touch my womb!!). Coincidentally we have TP to thank for tacking on those characters to the original script.

Under more nuanced and less melodramatic directorship, FCG could have gotten an Oscar nod at least but with TP as screen play writer/director/producer, it is what it is. I would still recommend it - but be warned - the stories are not pretty.

Who has seen ‘Good Deeds?’ and what’s your fave TP movie?
Have a blessed Easter people!!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Are child murderers born or made

Post Oscar awards, I observed that some people thought Tilda Swindon was robbed of a deserved best female award for her role in ‘We need to talk about Kevin’, so I had to see the movie for myself.
I was also curious to see what they make of the home environment of teenage murderers. In the past decade there has been a spate of gruesome murders committed by kids (In recent news,  a 14 yr old Daniel Bartlam murdered his mother using a claw hammer then attempted to burn the house to cover the body and evidence??!!). Have you wondered like me what drives a child to kill despite seemingly normal home environments?

We need to talk about Kevin chronicles the childhood of a teenage ‘sociopath’ who was behind a high school massacre. It particularly looks at the relationship between the boy and his parents growing up and their lives post massacre. It is fictional and biased (we are seeing the mother's view of events) but as a good movie should, it leaves you with questions. 

What role do parents play in creating or nurturing bad behavior? The eternal nature nurture debate. I don't know anymore. I want to believe in free will of a child but I also don't want to believe that a 14 yr old  will rationally wish to kill nor do I want to blame parents who might have done their best in their own way.
In the book written by Lionel Shriver, the mother had suffered Post natal depression after Kevin's birth and some people attribute his lack of emotions to the maternal rejection he endured as a baby. Still based from the book, others blamed her poor maternal ability. Hmmm, I don't want to accept these reasons as they shift the blame for a child's behaviour on the mother. Moreover she went on to have a second child who was a 'normal' loving child.

Was Kevin badly behaved enough to be ‘suspect’? Hmm, One couldn’t really pin point. Those malevolent eyes of his made my skin crawl. Though I guess for the sake of the movie they might have encouraged that to exaggerate his ‘vileness’. The scenes from childhood where he refuses to talk, poos in his pants deliberately or wrecks his mom’s treasured maps, are not necessarily what a child does and you think ‘Woe is me, my son is going to be a murderer’. Rather, he was mostly a mean character who played his parents against each other by withdrawing or giving his affection.

Imagine being a mother and you never have those tender mom and child moments where your child wraps their arms around you in love, or just smiles and gurgles at you. This woman never had it and she tried. She really tried to bond with her son. Interestingly he was the opposite with his father. Not because he loved him more but to further punish his mom. So when the mom complains to the father about his behavior he thought she exaggerated.

Could the teachers have helped? The movie did not focus much on his school environment so we don’t know how he behaved there and if the teachers could have detected ‘abnormal behaviour’. I can understand why the movie makers might want to avoid that minefield especially in America. Teachers have enough on their hands without society giving them added responsibility of detecting/reporting disturbed children.

Other questions
Why do Fathers teach their children dangerous sports like shooting, archery, in the name of bonding?
Could a psychologist have helped?
Are some people born sociopaths?
Should teenagers who commit heinous acts serve adult sentences?
Would I blame the mother/parents of a child who turned mass murderer? I don’t think so but I wouldn’t be drinking tea with her either.
I do believe that an unhappy home environment may foster some bad behavior but unhappy is a subjective word isn’t it?

All in all the movie was a good one. A brave one in fact that raised questions about a painful subject (I doubt if parents who lost their kids to a murdering teenager would view this movie with as much generousity).
Tilda Swindon who portrayed the weary haunted mother Eva gave a topnotch performance. In the movie she is simultaneously at the centre of the violence and at its margin: she is burdened with guilt yet can make no restitution. All that is left to her is to replay, endlessly, the story of Kevin's life and ponder her own role. Was she at fault – other than in giving birth to him? Or was Kevin's just evil? John C Reilly was also perfect in his Dad role, typical Father in the background. and Kevin dear Kevin (Ezra Miller), who reminded me of David from Omen. LOL
On the minus side, I tired of the repetitive flashbacks. The red orgy (if Eva is not scrubbing off red paint, it is tomatoes. just a lot of bloody red. Yeah its connotation to blood was initially spooky but got old fast).

Does Tilde Swindon deserve an Oscar? Hmm, I have a bias for Viola Davis, just because. But Tilda’s performance was really really good too. I guess I’ll have to watch Meryl as Thatcher before I conclude :p.


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